An appraisal of Sydney Pollack, Filmmaker New and Old


Sydney Pollack’s career as a director blossomed in the 1960s and ’70s, but in many ways he was a throwback to an earlier era in American movies.

The story of the New Hollywood, dominated by a wild bunch of ambitious, iconoclastic would-be auteurs, is by now overgrown with nostalgia and legend-mongering, but Mr. Pollack’s place in that legend suggests continuity rather than upheaval. The vitality of motion pictures has always been sustained by craftsmen with a modicum of business sense and the ability to tell a good story.

Mr. Pollack, who died on Monday at 73, was never (and never claimed to be) a great innovator or a notable visual stylist. If he could be compared to a major figure from the Old Hollywood, it would not be to one of the great individualists like Howard Hawks or John Ford, who stamped their creative personalities onto every project, whatever the genre or the level of achievement. Mr. Pollack was more like William Wyler: highly competent, drawn to projects with a certain quality and prestige and able above all to harness the charisma of movie stars to great emotional and dramatic effect.

(New York Times)

Classic Movies, Commentary, Directors

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